Today, I tested a device called a Brainport. It allows blind people to perceive objects using a camera mounted on glasses which sends the image to an electrode held on the tongue. The tongue receives the pixels of the image as current which the brain sends to the visual cortex to decipher.
Still at the research stage of the development, today I took part in a trial of the device which is about to be put forward for FDA approval and hopefully commercial availability. It wasn’t like normal seeing, but it was similar to the alternative sense of vision that I get from touching things.
The difference is I could see a letter on a card that I couldn’t feel with my hands. I’m in the U.S. at the moment taking part in an intensive physical therapy program at Project Walk in southern California to try and regain feeling and movement in my paralysed legs.
This program and the Brainport use the principles known as neuroplasticity – that the brain and the nervous system is plastic, that it can adapt and re-learn new ways to behave after such catastrophic injurie. Five weeks in america and I’m leaving with hope for both my vision and chances of getting out of my wheelchair eventually. Exciting!